Rangers coach fires back at Habs

Updated: May 26, 2014, 8:42 AM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- After a drama-filled Saturday in which the Montreal Canadiens booted the New York Rangers assistant coaches from practice, accused the club of gamesmanship and made questionably threatening comments about one of the injured Rangers players, coach Alain Vigneault fired back in his pregame news briefing Sunday morning prior to Game 4.

Vigneault ripped the Habs for Saturday's slew of incidents, beginning with Habs coach Michel Therrien's decision to throw Rangers assistant coaches Ulf Samuelsson and Jerry Dineen from practice. Afterward, Therrien said there was an implicit understanding between organizations that opposing coaches are not permitted to watch a team's practice on non-game days.

[+] EnlargeAlain Vigneault
Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

"We were treated very unfairly yesterday," Vigneault said after the team's morning skate at Madison Square Garden. "There is no rule. There was no agreement between both teams. That is the exception, not the rule. I've been asked in the past to do this on a couple of occasions. Usually the coach calls me or the [general manager]. Never happened."

When asked Sunday morning whether such a pact existed, Rangers general manager Glen Sather told ESPNNewYork.com: "Absolutely none."

Sather went on to explain that he received a phone call from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin Saturday inquiring about this understanding and Sather explained he never agreed to any such thing. Bergevin then apologized to Sather for the misunderstanding.

A source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun that director of hockey operations Colin Campbell met with both Therrien and Bergevin to discuss the coach's actions at Saturday's practice, though it is not immediately clear if anything will come of that conversation.

While Sather was able to shake it off as "silly," Vigneault was clearly still irritated.

"What happened yesterday was uncalled for and without a doubt my staff handled it with a lot of class, just like our team -- play whistle-to-whistle, don't get involved with the other stuff," Vigneault continued. "Very regrettable. This is the National Hockey League. That type of behavior, we're lucky it didn't escalate."

That wasn't the only thing he took issue with, either. Vigneault was similarly displeased when asked about Therrien's comments, made Saturday in his native French, about knowing the precise nature of Brassard's injury.

Vigneault seemed to interpret such remarks as threatening toward his player, who is expected to return Sunday after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury sustained in the series opener in Montreal last Saturday.

"Well, let me just put it this way: I just hope nothing happens to Brass," Vigneault said. "The player and Michel could be in trouble."

The gamesmanship between the two teams has ratcheted up a significant degree. Though the Rangers have largely tried to remain above the fray -- save for Vigneault's pointed comments about the officiating in Game 3 and Brandon Prust's suspension-earning hit that broke Derek Stepan's jaw -- the Habs took a number of swipes at the Blueshirts Saturday.

Some players questioned the severity of Stepan's injury -- Stepan was discharged from the hospital Saturday night after undergoing surgery on Friday to repair his fractured jaw -- while one griped about Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh's proclivity for slashing.

Stepan was ruled out for Game 4 by Vigneault on Sunday.

A whole lot of drama, basically, with the Rangers leading the series 2-1 heading into Game 4.

"That's all it is," Chris Kreider said. "Just chatter."

Interestingly enough, Vigneault and Therrien are friends. Or at least they were.

"I think [Therrien] said prior to the series, for this two-week period, we're not really friends," Vigneault said, pausing. "He's probably right."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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